Industry Negligence

Industry Negligence
Woman, Mother, Space Marine

Ray Huling | 18 Nov 2008 12:27
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The Lieutenant is Dead. Long live the Lieutenant.
Aliens reveals the weakness of military paternalism, but it does so while casting the troops in a favorable light. Everybody likes Privates Hudson and Vasquez, Corporal Hicks and all the rest. The film then provides an alternative source of strength in the form of Ripley. Cameron critiqued the military in Aliens. Videogames have missed this point entirely.

Instead of exploring the notion of a kick-ass woman whose frailty and hardness intertwine and ultimately make her stronger than soldiers, games just offer better soldiers. Game developers got all turned on by the depiction of space marines in Aliens; they ignored Ripley and got in bed with Heinlein's Starship Troopers instead. Their response to the defeat of the colonial marines is to replace Lieutenant Gorman with a soldier who isn't an asshole. Then we'll see how the aliens like it!

Follow the story of a space marine like Marcus Fenix, hero of the Gears of War franchise, and you'll find a celebration of precisely the authoritarian militarism that Aliens argues against and Heinlein argues for. Fenix is fatalistic, stoic and a supremely skilled soldier - just what humanity needs in its struggle against hostile creatures. He shares his duties with men like him, a squad that exhibits much the same charm as the marines in Aliens. He lives in a world at war, in which a military action is always the correct action. As with all games starring space marines, the threat in Gears of War exists only to excuse the players' indulgence in a militarist fantasy.

The Fighting Mom
Ripley defies militarism, and yet she still gets to blow shit up. Her motivations oppose those of the military when it comes to the aliens. The military-industrial complex wants to capture the aliens in order to make weapons out of them. The marines fight because that's their job. Ripley wants to wipe the aliens out, and she returns to their nest to resolve the psychological trauma of her first battle with them.

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When the situation goes fubar (because the space marine family relied on an unfit father), Ripley takes charge, sometimes with unilateral action, but more often by facilitating consensus. She does not replace Lieutenant Dad. Nor does she reject military means out of hand. One of the marines teaches her how to wield an assault rifle, and she gets good, messy results with this training. She's never indoctrinated, however. She also relies on skills she developed as a futuristic longshoreman. In the famous climax of Aliens, Ripley beats the crap out of the Alien queen while wearing an exoskeleton designed for cargo loading.

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